March 1, 2022 marks the deadline for Albertans to contribute to a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) for the 2021 tax year. RRSPs are a retirement savings vehicle that allows you to put away up to 18% of your last year’s income and any carry forward room from prior years. The real benefit is that you defer tax on the amount you contribute, until you withdraw the funds in retirement. If you don’t yet have an RRSP account or feel you have underutilized your existing plan or Group RRSP through your employer, here are four reasons to reconsider and contribute to an RRSP consistently.
1. RRSPs are not just for saving
A common misconception is that RRSPs are just glorified savings accounts. While it may say “savings” in the name, you can also invest in an RRSP and rely on the compound growth of your investments within the plan. RRSPs also discourage you from withdrawing your funds until retirement, which maximizes the compound interest you can generate. RRSPs do this by charging both income tax and a withdrawal tax on any funds removed prior to retirement, and permanently removing contribution room in the amount you take out before age 71. For example, if you invested $100 a month at age 35 into your RRSP in an investment fund that generated an annual 6% return and did not touch it till maturity, you could expect your plan to be worth nearly $143,000.
2. Tax-deferred growth
One of the most significant benefits of the RRSP is that any contributions made to your plan in your working years are deducted from your taxable income and, if invested, can grow tax-free while the funds stay in the account. The longer the time horizon before you retire, the more time you have for compound growth to accelerate and grow your retirement nest egg. Once in retirement, withdrawals from your RRSP will be taxed at your retirement income bracket, which should be less than in your working years.
3. Lifelong Learners Plan (LLP) and the Home Buyer’s Plan (HBP)
RRSPs are generally restricted to retirement savings, but they do include unique benefits to help you pay for significant expenditures in your life, like going back to school or buying a first home. The LLP allows you to withdraw up to $10,000 in a calendar year from your RRSP to finance full-time training or education for you or your spouse or common-law partner. Once withdrawn, you have to make annual payments to your RRSP over a ten-year period until the balance is zero. The HBP allows you to withdraw up to $35,000 from your RRSP to buy or build a qualifying home for yourself or a related person with a disability. The repayment period starts the second year after the year you withdrew the funds, with 15 years to repay the funds in your RRSP. It is worth noting that if you fail to repay the funds from either plan in the allotted time, you will lose that contribution room from your RRSP and any missed annual payments will be added to your annual taxable income.
4. Group RRSPS
A Group RRSP is administered by employers as part of its compensation package to employees and can be a powerful savings vehicle for your retirement. One of the biggest benefits of a group RRSP is contribution matching. Employers will define a contribution level as either a fixed dollar amount or a percentage deducted from the employee’s paycheque automatically each pay period. Whatever amount the employee chooses to allocate to the Group RRSP, the employer will match the contribution, effectively doubling the savings rate for the employee. Funds contributed to a group RRSP are invested in securities offered by the financial institution administering the Group RRSP. Most Group RRSP providers offer a selection of funds for varying retirement dates, asset allocations and risk tolerances. If you do not utilize a Group RRSP from your employer or do not contribute the total amount allowed, you may be leaving a significant amount of money out of your possible retirement savings.
With tax time nearing, consider the benefits of opening or contributing more routinely to an RRSP or Group RRSP. Not only will you defer some of your income tax payments throughout your working years, but you will also be creating a nest egg that your future self will appreciate.
Author: James MacTavish
Senior Advisor, Investor & Industry Education
Alberta Securities Commission